Auto News for Oct. 12

A Day of First Drives

It had all the luxury that one could ask for. Integrated Voice Control, 9 Alpine speakers with woofer, heated steering wheel, adjustable pedals, “Longhorn Instrument Cluster,” 20” polished aluminum wheels, heated and cooled leather wrapped bucket seats, air suspension, rain sensitive wipers, lots of soft touch surfaces, and so forth. It was spooky quiet inside, the ride was smooth over bumpy back roads, and the 8.4 inch screen at the center of the dash performed more tricks than Penn & Teller.

Want to know how your favorite team is faring? It will tell you, play by play or show you where to find the game on satellite radio. Traffic jam up ahead? It will tell you. Want to be left alone from e-mail and phone calls? It will hang out the “do not disturb” sign. And it will do more. Lots more. Like a Uconnect Access system that provides stolen vehicle tracking and quick access to 911 in an emergency.

Cadillac? Nope. Lincoln? Nope. Then it has to be a Mercedes! Nope. The vehicle that contained $6,610 worth of optional equipment was a Ram 1500 Limited Crew Cab 4X4. It was part of a delightful rainy day sampling of some 2016 Fiat Chrysler offerings.

Scoff at the Ram’s price if you will, but these luxury pickups are hot items these days.

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2016 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited

On the road, one would never guess that a 3.0 liter V6 diesel was under the hood. Rated at 240 horsepower with a hefty 420 lb-ft of torque, it delivered effortless power, didn’t clatter, at least as far as I could tell from the driver’s seat, and was tied to a refined 8-speed automatic transmission.

The EPA gives this combination an economy rating of 19 city, 27 highway, for a combined 22 mpg, and that is not bad for a full sized, heavy truck. It can tow up to 9,200 pounds.

The ride was most un-truck like, especially if your perception is that all trucks ride stiff and jostle people around inside, just because they are trucks. With the class exclusive coil-spring suspension the ride was smooth and comfortable and dare I say, very car-like.

In Crew Cab models there is extra leg room for two in the second row of seats and it comes with either a 5’7” bed or 6’4” offering.

A $1,295 “Rambox Cargo Management System” was part of the option package and makes it easy to secure virtually any load. It also includes two lockable compartments over the rear fenders, one of the Ram’s top features. A switch can lower the truck two inches for easier loading.

If you venture off road, (this is a 4X4 after all,) one can raise the platform 2 inches for additional clearance over more challenging stretches.

People are moving into full size pickups because they like the higher driving stance, and an extra long option list that allows them to personalize their wheels, both options and budget wise. Interesting that Ram officials say customer demographics are trending younger.

Go whole hog, and you are talking the $60,395 that was the MSRP of the truck I drove. A lot of bucks for sure, but it goes for a truck that can go off road, look at home in suburbia, (even a country club), haul a huge trailer, and get your phone ringing from relatives and other strangers who are moving a week from Saturday.

Bottom line? The Ram was most impressive!

Good fun was also had in a Wrangler Unlimited Sahara that ranks right up there as a vehicle that you should drive before heading down that big off road trail in the sky. This one was well optioned including the desirable three piece removable hard top, air conditioning, Alpine sound system, and the ability to conquer just about any off road course in the country. There’s nothing like listening to Taylor Swift while fording streams and cruising over rocks.

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It was a fun day driving Fiat Chrysler’s products including the new “baby Jeep” as I call it, the Renegade. It too was “Trail Rated” while encompassing the luxury touches, safety equipment, and removable panels of its big brother. The interior is very Fiat like since the Renegade is based on a Fiat platform and assembled in Melfi, Italy.

 

 

 

 

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